Hillary Clinton thinks we should go back to 55 MPH.

HILL DRIVE FOR ‘55’ By IAN BISHOP – New York Post Online Edition

May 24, 2006—WASHINGTON – In a surprise move yesterday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton called for “most of the country” to return to a speed limit of 55 mph in an effort to slash fuel consumption.

“The 55-mile speed limit really does lower gas usage. And wherever it can be required, and the people will accept it, we ought to do it,” Clinton said at the National Press Club.

She’s right, of course, it will save on gas usage… assuming anyone actually obeys the speed limit. Judging from the number of people who whip past me doing 90 to 110 on the freeway every morning while I putt-putt along at the 70 MPH limit I’d have to say that the only effect her proposal is likely to have is to keep her out of the White House. By and large people aren’t accepting th current 70 MPH limit so why the hell would she think anyone would accept the 55 MPH limit? Surely she’s ridden on the freeways? Surely she’s seen how people drive? How stupid can she possible be?

31 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton thinks we should go back to 55 MPH.

  1. People are the same everywhere.  Lots of folks up here don’t drive the speed limit, and it doesn’t matter how fast you drive you’ll run into someone who wants to go faster.  I just hope those folks who are doing 110 in a 70 mph zone don’t come up this way.  With the speed limits posted in kilometers per hour they might be doing 150 miles per hour if they don’t realise those limits are in kilometers.

  2. I drive MPH+8, and we have both 65 and 55 zones around the metro area here.  Folks won’t go 55, but at a 55 limit *most* folks will slow down 8-10 mph.

    That said … it does seem like an impolitic move on Hillary’s part.

  3. There are a lot of factors that determine best speed for mileage for a given automobile.  The difference in mileage between 55 and 70 is a lot smaller in a modern car than in the cars of Jimmy Carter’s era.

    Carter’s an enormously decent fellow, but no pol in her right mind should want to have her name in the same sentence as his.

    And just to add insult to idiocy, ‘most of the country?’  What The…

  4. In Utah they built all the highways when the speed limit was 75mph.  They banked all the curves, which made sense at those speeds and in the icy conditions.

    Then they lowered the speed limit to 55, and the population of the valley rose to the point that traffic jams lowered the average speed even further.

    The result?  Cars sliding off the inside edge of the road.  In some places, this meant sliding into a snow-filled ditch.  In others, it meant sliding into oncoming traffic.  The campaign to increase ‘safety’ on the road led to more crashes, deaths, and delays.

    Clinton’s fighting a losing battle, because Americans couldn’t be less interested in saving energy.  But at least she’s not saying we should drive slower to be ‘safer’.

  5. Well the first thing she should do is repeal the gas guzzler tax exception for SUVs and Pickups. I can see a commercial exception. They actually use large vehicles to move large things around, but not most people. If you don’t believe me, look at the number of passengers in large SUVs. Most people say they need it for the room, but they only carry more than themselves on two or three trips a week. The rest of the average 500-1000 miles per week they are all alone. On those two trips loaded with their 1.5 children, two cars to football practice would expend about the same gas as one SUV and save more on the day-to-day driving.

    On top of that, you should be pay for eating up more gas than eveyone else. By that I mean there should be add a yearly licensing fee on top of the regular tag fee imposed by the state and fed. If your vehicle gets less than 25 MPG, city, you should be allowed a yearly quota of 5000 miles. If you do more, you should be taxed at a higher rate. Say, $100 per thousand over that. That limit would allow home owners to keep a pickup, but only use it for what a pickup is intended; hauling stuff.

    Most Americans will cry about how it’s their right to drive whatever they want, but they don’t realize that they are the problem. It’s like being in a shipwreck at sea. You’re all in a lifeboat with a limited supply of food and water. Do you give the majority of your food and water to the 500lb guy because he says he needs more?

  6. Close, but the 500-lb guy analogy is only partially appropriate.  In the case of vehicles, no one has to walk (though it certainly wouldn’t hurt them to try!).  They just have to make better choices when buying a car.

    A tax on heavy carbon-producing vehicles reflects the high public cost of those vehicles.  But no snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche, not even a Chevvy Avalanche.

  7. …it does seem like an impolitic move on Hillary’s part.

    You said it, Dave.  But “impolitic” is not necessarily the same as “stupid”.  There’s no nice equation that will tell us how to balance the time saved by driving faster with the increased consumption of gas, destruction of environment, and loss of lives it entails.  Yes, driving slower is safer- I don’t remember the figures, but when the 55mph limit went into effect years ago, there was an immediate drop in overall fatalities nationwide.

    I would vote for a 55mph limit, but since I don’t own one, I see cars mostly from the outside.  Here in Austria there’s a push for a 160kmh limit (around 100 mph).  Now that’s stupid.

  8. Well, she just lost my vote. angry

    55mph is the speed limit all around metro denver. Unless there is a cop sitting in plain sight, the average flow of traffic seems to be around 70mph.

    Spewing out crap like “wherever it can be required, and the people will accept it, we ought to do it,” is straight up political suicide. Why do you think Nader can’t get into office?

  9. Never been to the US so I don’t know what distances people cover regularly, but if long distance driving takes longer then won’t that push people to the airlines, which use up even more fuel and are even more polluting? And what are the railroad and long-distance bus services like over there?

    In Britain, single roads carry a maximum speed limit of 60mph, but the big long distance dual roads and motorways are at 70mph. We also have long-distance trains that do up to 125mph.

  10. Outside of the major urban cities (New York, Chicago, etc.) and their immediate suburbs mass commuter systems such as bus lines and railways aren’t all that commonplace. For example, if you live in Manhattan you can get away with not owning a car, but that tends to be the exception and not the rule.

    By comparison here in Metro Detroit you pretty much have to own a car if you want to get to anyplace in particular within a reasonable amount of time. There is a SMART bus system that runs in Detroit and does have routes into many of the suburbs and that tends to be heavily used by the poor and disabled, but there’s very little passenger rail service and it’s mostly used to move back and forth between Detroit and places like Ann Arbor or Lansing. In fact Amtrak is the last passenger rail service left in the country and it’s heavily subsidized by the government to keep it running. Hasn’t been solvent in decades. It is possible to move around Detroit and it’s suburbs without a car, but not quickly and not on a whim. If you want to go anywhere outside of South Eastern Michigan that isn’t too another state—say up to my folks place in Otisville—then you pretty much have to have a car.

    From where I live in Brighton it’s a 56 mile trip one way into Troy where I work across no less than four freeways and in light traffic it can be done in about 48 minutes with an average speed limit of 70MPH. Thanks to construction at several places and one spot where people just slow down and stop for no apparent reason it takes me between an hour and 15 minutes to two hours to get to work depending on the day. Bus service doesn’t extend all the way out here to Brighton and the closest rail service is in Ann Arbor which is a good 20 minutes away so I’d still need a car to get to it.

    The U.S. pretty much fell in love with the car from the beginning and thanks to the National Highway System that we put in all incentive to develop a robust mass transit system on a national level was pretty much nil. It also doesn’t help that the country itself is pretty friggin’ huge. Japan has an exemplary mass transit system. It’s also nowhere near the size of the United States. For that matter, most of the E.U. nations are small enough that putting mass transit systems in place between countries wasn’t that big a deal. Many of the original states on the eastern seaboard here in the U.S. were of the right size to make something like that possible, but as we spread westward we got lazy and made bigger and bigger states.

  11. Neil T: Never been to the US so I don’t know what distances people cover regularly,
    but if long distance driving takes longer then won’t that push people to
    the airlines, which use up even more fuel and are even more polluting? And
    what are the railroad and long-distance bus services like over there?

    Damn, Neil, I think you’re right.  Here in the states we drive quite long distances and many people commute 40+ miles to work. 

    Our trains have a rather quaint notion of the meaning of ‘on-time’ while our airlines have staggeringly huge subsidies.  The first is probably a function of the second.  The economics of transportation in this country is heavily distorted.

    Speed limit laws and safety have but a tangential relationship.  Most such laws are created by politicians who have no clue about anything (present case in point).  By the way, the ‘lower fatality’ stats of the 55mph era here in this country could be a result of the fact that people were driving less due to gas prices that seemed high at the time. 

    Tailgating is just as dangerous as drunk driving but I have never heard of anyone getting a ticket for it.

  12. The U.S. pretty much fell in love with the car from the beginning and thanks to the National Highway System that we put in all incentive to develop a robust mass transit system on a national level was pretty much nil.

    That’s right, blame it on the Germans wink

  13. Zilch: Here in Austria there’s a push for a 160kmh limit (around 100 mph). Now that’s stupid.

    I agree. There’s too little room for error.
    On a sales trip out west nearly 20 years ago I hit a horse @ 160kmh. Horse & Car – dead, John – fine. I slowed down a bit after that.
    Most of the decent (divided) highways in Oz are limited to 110kmh (70mph) at best.

  14. Speed limit laws and safety have but a tangential relationship.

    I beg to differ, DoF.  While there are certainly lots of factors affecting traffic safety, the danger of driving faster is commonsensical- and well established.  Here’s one study done in Iowa and surrounding states.

    Of course, the safest speed to drive is zero miles an hour, and no one wants that.  But we need to keep in mind that more people will die in auto accidents, the faster we drive.  Sorry, it’s just physics.

  15. Another reason there were lower deaths during the 55mph era is from car safety improvements. ABS, Airbags, 4 wheel disk brakes, automatic seatbelt tensioner, etc. All started to become more common in the 70’s-80’s.

  16. That’s the problem with common sense, Zilch; it tends to jump to the most obvious cause and miss the contribution of other factors that may outweigh the one being discussed.  Yes, speed is a factor but the speed at the time of the collision (affected by better tires and brakes) and other safety factors (such as airbags, ultra-strong passenger compartments, etc.) may be even more important.  Also, drunk-driving is no longer considered socially acceptable and is also a serious crime now.

    The cars of the ‘70’s were deathtraps, BTW.

    It’s like the drop in murder rates as handgun ownership has gone way up; the most overlooked factor is the huge improvement in emergency medicine.  Which, come to think of it, is another big factor in traffic fatalities.

  17. This may all well be true, DoF, but it remains a fact that, all other things being equal, higher speed equals more fatalities.  A modern car with airbag and better brakes is probably safer at 70mph than cars were at 55mph thirty years ago- that’s not the point.  Faster is simply more dangerous.

  18. Sigh.  Of course I am not arguing that speed does not matter.  But before you interfere with the movements of an entire nation and foster disrespect for the law, while raising a number of unintended consequences that may even cancel out the desired effect, AND how the law may be misused, you have to decide how important that factor is, how it balances against other factors, and what the payoff is against the various costs. 

    It’s not just the airbags and ABS brakes.  Everything about new cars is better.  The difference is absolutely huge. 

    Yes, a pair of twins, each driving identical cars, hitting identical walls at different speeds, will have different outcomes.  And Hillary has just identified herself as bereft of a single clue. tongue rolleye

  19. Zilch, please explain the safety record of the German Autobahn.

    Sure, higher speeds imply more kinetic energy to dispose of in case of an accident. Since all other things are never equal, the question is what other factors determine the highway safety record and their relative weight. At first glance, there’s driver education, vehicle and road design, vehicle and road maintenance, enforcement of applicable speed limits, and surely there are more. It’s far from clear to me that a reduction of the speed limits in isolation would result in a significant reduction of highway traffic fatalities and serious injury.

  20. It’s far from clear to me that a reduction of the speed limits in isolation would result in a significant reduction of highway traffic fatalities and serious injury.

    What’s a “significant reduction”?  The report I linked to is probably about as good a controlled study as you’re going to get, because, as you say, all things are never equal.  This is a comparison of five states that increased the speed limit with three that did not.  The conclusion?

    For the States that raised their speed limits, every state experienced an increase in the average yearly fatalities. All five states with speed limits higher than 65 mph show an increase in traffic deaths that ranges from seven percent (7%) to thirteen percent (13%).  This study has been run for eight years. In each of these years, the average annual fatalities have been higher since the speed limit increase.

    Of course, other factors are important too.  I don’t debate that, and I agree that it’s political suicide to even hint to Americans that they have to slow down.  All I’m saying is that speed kills.  And other things do too- bad drivers, unsafe cars, drunks…  Everyone agrees that we need cars, drivers, and roads that are as safe as possible.  But no one likes to hear that we also have to balance our need for speed with how many traffic fatalities we’re willing to put up with.

  21. Everyone agrees that we need cars, drivers, and roads that are as safe as possible.

    Not necessarily.  The philosophy of “If it saves even one life, it will be worth it” is one of my pet peeves.  A few years ago, someone got the bright idea to put a third taillight on cars.  It cut rear-end collisions in HALF without interfering in anyone’s life.  That’s progress.

    Where do the fatalities occur?  Could improvements in lane design around on and off-ramps make a difference?  How about differential speed limits for trucks?  (This has been endlessly debated and please let’s not get into it here)  Fact is, in Illinois the truck speed limit is 55mpg and it just gets them down to 70, on a good day.  Why not say, “Weight kills?”  Would it be practical to put a 40,000 lb weight-limit on trucks?  After all, we want the road to be as safe as possible. 

    Most people die close to home because that’s where they ARE most of the time.  If a speed-limit law can effect a 10% reduction in highway fatalities but a seat-belt law can effect 35%, which one is a bigger pain in the ass?  Where does micromanaging start?

  22. Sorry for double-dipping, but I just thought of the answer:  Micromanaging occurs at the threshold between two states of compliance.  In the first, a law pisses citizens off every single day of their lives and is never fully accepted.  In the second, they grumble, comply, and eventually think nothing of it.  This is an immutable social rule and governments can only bend it with serously oppressive measures.  So the smart thing to do is to get as much improvement in the situation as you can inside the rule.

  23. Zilch, I had a quick glance at the study. There is a lot it doesn’t tell me.

    First,the graphics with the yearly stats that I’d really like see are not displayed in the cached page. Obviously, the yearly data might tell a different story than the eight-year averages, with many things not being equal anymore.

    Second, I consider neither the change in percentage nor in absolute numbers as significant. Friends and families surviving the unlucky ones may beg to differ, of course.

    Questions that the report does not answer (perhaps not unless you actually read it carefully):

    What’s the actual change in driving speed before and after? At what speeds did the fatal accidents happen? To what extent do hotspots contribute to the overall numbers? How did the overall traffic volume change? And so on…

    We all know that correlation doesn’t imply causation and even the correlation isn’t perfect in the report. We all know that you shouldn’t trust a statistic you haven’t carefully skewed yourself. A more important number to you is not the absolute or relative change in overall fatalities, but how often can you get on the road before the statistical averages are expected to catch up with you. I would bet that the traffic volume has increased over time and it’s again not clear to me whether the risk to an individual driver has increased or decreased in one of the states that raised the speed limit.

    The long and short of it is that nobody disputes that higher speeds carry greater risks – although you haven’t answered how the German Autobahn without general speed limits manages to be safests roads on the planet. What we don’t agree on is whether or not a change in speed limit is “worth it” – in the grand scheme of things, all other things NOT being equal.

  24. The long and short of it is that nobody disputes that higher speeds carry greater risks – although you haven’t answered how the German Autobahn without general speed limits manages to be safests roads on the planet. What we don’t agree on is whether or not a change in speed limit is “worth it

  25. Zilch: I must say I’m amazed at the resistance here to the idea that there is a tradeoff between speed and safety, which is a simple matter of physics.

    That is not the idea to which I take exception, and never did.  I am resisting the idea that speed is the only, or even the most important factor.  And to simplistic approaches generally.  The whole debate has been had here in this country decades ago, and with the same problems of each side talking past the other.

  26. The German Autobahn is safe for a few simple reasons. The roads are engineered for the highest speeds and are maintained meticulously, the cars have been engineered for high speed and crash safety and last but not least, driver education is orders of magnitude ahead of that in the U.S., say. It also helps that Germans have that thing about following rules, like the rules of the road, written and unwritten.

    There are tradeoffs between utility and safety and between safety and speed. Given that the American Interstate system is a cheap rip-off of the German Autobahn, there has to be a speed limit. The questions is where.

    Returning to energy conservation, it’s again not clear that reducing the legal speed limit isn’t more than a half-assed measure designed to look like something is being done. Penny-wise and pound foolish or whatever the proverb is.

    I suspect that the best bet for the future is to invest heavily into public transportation and alternate energy sources. This would piss off tons of lobbyists, so the country will likely come to a grinding halt when the real oil shortages begin and all everybody will look puzzled – “Who could have known? It must be an intelligence failure!”

    Sigh.

  27. I suspect that the best bet for the future is to invest heavily into public transportation and alternate energy sources.

    Future?  What future?  If we just cut down these fruit trees, it’s much easier to reach the fruit…

  28. Oh that Hillary…
    Shes yet another politician in a long line of politicians that that has no common sense.

    The sad thing is she might very well be the first presidential candiddate Ill be old enough to vote for…

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